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Feeling the Pinch: young, out of work, and running out of hope

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 14:51 UK time, Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Youths entering a job centre


Sitting inside the Wulfrun Shopping Centre in Wolverhampton, it's not just the economic climate that feels decidedly chilly. Clutching steaming mugs of tea and coffee, shoppers grabbing a cuppa keep their coats on. A woman at the next table even has her woolly hat on.

We're here to meet Saxon. He is what the statisticians call a 'NEET' - a young person not in education, employment or training.

Saxon is 22. He's chatty, articulate and fed up. And he's one in a million.


The number of unemployed 16 to 24-year-olds had broken the one-million barrier, rising to 1.016 million, according to the Office for National Statistics. "I feel like I am washed up. I might be young but I feel washed up, I am not getting anywhere," he says. "I am at the back. The dark bit of life. To be in society you have to have a job. But there are too many people going for the same job." So who's to blame?

Saxon Murray


"I think the government and my school let me down. I got bullied at school and that has knocked my confidence. The riots were a good thing to prove to the government that something needs to be done now," he says.

Saxon admits to lounging around in bed until the afternoon - so is he really trying his hardest to find work?

Would he - as Lord Tebbit once asked - get on his bike to find a job? Would he go, for instance, to Aberdeen or Dundee?

"Too right I would. I would get my bags, and go," he says, gesticulating north.

Listen to Saxon's story here.

Listen here to Howard de Souza, from the charity TAG, which works with young people looking for work. What advice does he have for Saxon? He tells us not enough young people know what he calls "the rules of the game" of impressing employers, like buying a tie and getting a hair cut.

Are you feeling the pinch? Tell 5live about it here.

 Chris Mason is 5 live's Political Reporter. To launch 5live's Feeling the Pinch series, he's been reporting for Breakfast, Drive and Up All Night from Leicester, Hinckley, Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

You can follow Chris on Twitter - @ChrisMasonBBC



  • Comment number 1.

    This represents one side of the various contributions this morning and there were quite a few gutsy kids who haven't followed this route. It is all too easy to blame other things such as school life or bullying. The David Miliband quote of no work because of no experience whirlpool has existed since I was a kid. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and work your way up, even though you just want to be instantly in a good grade in that job. It has also always been the case that it has been virtually certain you are largely not better off for taking a low paid job rather than staying on benefit. The mere idea that you might show some gumption and courage in trying to show your ability by being in the workplace on time, willing to do anything, rather than watching tv all day, is looked on as a crazy idea. How many teaching hours are spent teaching how to write a CV or how to be interviewed when as well as these two things people should get some education in how to live and earn and have pride in yourself for having a go.

  • Comment number 2.

    Carrie ... it's called dropping out! Our governments redistribute our taxes to the rich. If you're going to be miles on the wrong side of a huge divide anyway, then why bother doing something you hate for a few quid more. You're arguments about a protestant work ethic or self respect or working your way up are just out-dated and transparent, these just serve the established order and more and more people understand this, even if they can't necessarily articulate it. More self respect to be gained by saying FU than by working for a system that's designed to keep you down.

  • Comment number 3.

    With respect that is rubbish. " More self respect to be gained by saying FU than by working for a system that's designed to keep you down." And that is a disgraceful premis on which to base your life. Every generation of school leavers including this one and way back to that of my mother, faced problems, maybe of different types,but it is all relative. At the time you think you have had it the worst of all. If you bring a kid up to have the attitude you postulate than I hope they have some backbone and gumption to prove it wrong.

    No jobs, no money, can't write a CV, who cares- no jobs anyway, will just get my benefit. Bring my many kids up to do the same as there's nothing wrong with it. And on.

    Mentoring programmes are the answer and I am a firm believer in supporting people to find out for themselves through being mentored, that there is a hope for them if they apply themselves to the task.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think that young people today, and older people too, have a more difficult time with regard to employment than was the case in the 1960s.

    In the blog someone says that buying a tie and getting a haircut is the solution. With respect, the situation is far more serious than that -more than 20 per cent of 16 to 24 year olds unemployed, although this includes those in full-time education apparently.

    In the 1960s there were people who dressed unconventionally, and some of them were teachers. You could also drop out, take a gap year and there would be able to find a job when you returned. The 1950s and 1960s had problems, but unemployment was n't one of them.

    Now there is a lack of jobs. You can't drop out because there is no much to drop out from, and the lack of employment exists in other developed countries.

    However, the economic cycle changes. For example the subject of the blog interview who is called Saxon, is aged 22. Four years ago, he would have been 18, and at that time, 2007, the employment situation was much better. Remember all those Polish immigrants? The question is what was Saxon doing then? We don't know.

    We have to look forward to better times to come.

  • Comment number 5.

    It would be lovely if work experience could be obtained at whatever lowly level, unfortunately when you have 400 people chasing 40 vacancies in a new Poundland for a job at minimum wage, you don't get a lot of chance at experience. Sure there's feckless youth, always has been, always will be but they're a minority. The young people I come into contact with want work, chase work, would do anything for any job; sadly they're not there. It isn't what you know, what qualifications you have, how good your CV is or even what experience you have; it's who you know and how they can help you.
    Re comment 4, Saxon would have had trouble finding work in Wolves 4 years ago..the job situation was pretty dire back in 2007 there and as just got worse. I know a young woman the same age who lives that way whose only work was 6 months under the old labour government scheme to give her experience....and yes she has really tried to get any work but now has so little confidence I doubt she will ever succeed. Another lost generation....


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